Thursday, 26 November 2015

Thanksgiving day reflections

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To my American friends celebrating Thanksgiving I wish them a happy occasion and remind them of a joke of Garrison Keillor, whom I love. 
"My ancestors were puritans from England. They arrived here in 1648 in the hope of finding greater restrictions than were permissible under English law at that time."

I am not sure what Thanksgiving is about but it is about puritans landing in America. G.K. Chesterton said,
"The English might very well establish another Thanksgiving Day to celebrate the happy fact that the Pilgrim Fathers left England."

Puritanism runs through American culture like Southend through a stick of Southend rock. 

The puritans, even more than the Pharisees, get a rather unfair press. I, for one, shall be sorry when the USA loses its Protestant religiosity which is what makes the country what it is. But even if Americans cease to be religious they will still be puritans, albeit, as they are now, debauched puritans. 

Political correctness is all about puritanism. One of the most attractive things about Orthodox countries, like Romania, is that they do not have puritans. It is Protestant countries like England and America that are bedevilled with them, like wasps in summer. 


On the other hand puritans are much better at book-keeping and probity in general than other faiths. It is no coincidence that Orthodox countries score above Catholic and Protestant ones in every index of corruption. 

Calvinism and puritanism flourish even after belief in God dies. When the left likes homosexuality and sexual freedom it does so for puritan reasons, not cavalier ones. 

Mr. Obama today likened the Syrian refugees whom he wants his country to accept to the pilgrim fathers.  He has a point. Muslims are puritans as well, of course, Calvinists plus polygamy, so maybe Muslim immigrants in America will fit in. I am sure that, unlike the original puritans, the Muslims will not displace the natives. They may, however, cause quite a few changes.

14 comments:

  1. Certainly Mormonism has a cubbyhole in this strange admixture of puritanism and polygamy. No alcohol, no tobacco no, coffee or tea but as many wives as you please.

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  2. One other thing about the puritans is that their honesty in commercial and other dealings is what made economic development possible at a very low cost of setting up government infrastructure.

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    1. They weren't honest but cruel in their dealings with the indigenous people of the northeastern continent of where they landed in Massachusetts. By 1724 the last great tribe, the Norridgewock (Maine) was massacred. The road to Quebec was opened.

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  3. http://pvewood.blogspot.ro/2012/11/happy-thanksgiving.html

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  4. 'Debauched puritans' is good.

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  5. I worked with Romanians who migrated to the US after the fall of Communism. Many were Protestant. Did the Protestant minority in Romania all disappear to elsewhere.

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  6. Great read! As a Catholic American, I disagree with the statement that Protestant religiosity makes America what it is. Perhaps that was true at one point in time, although things are different in Memphis which my home and the City that helped me frame my initial perspective of America. While Memphis is a city with many Baptists, Presbyterian, and Episcopalians (among a strew of various other Protestant sects), it is home to the largest Jewish population in the Southern states. In fact, I think it is home to a synagogue with the largest congregation of conservative Jews in the entire nation. My point is that my home region in America is defined by Protestant religiosity, therefore the Nation cannot be defined by it. There is the paradoxical tendency for debaucherous Puritanism which you mention, and that is frustrating to even think about.

    Thanks for sharing this. I have been up to my ears in my doctoral studies which is my excuse for not keeping in touch.

    Be well brother,

    John

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  7. An interesting and insightful article.

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    1. With reference to 'Anonymous' on 29 November 2015 one might also refer to the Huguenots' contribution to UK infrastructure in the 19th Century - eg I.K. Brunel (civil engineering) and Joseph Bazalgette (public sanitation).

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  8. I was born and raised in Pilgrim Country (i.e. Southeastern Massachusetts) and, as a journalist, specialized in the American English language throughout my adult life. Imagine my chagrin at being unable to understand the point of this rambling diatribe.

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  9. One thing to be noted: Pilgrims and Puritans are not the same denomination. As I understand it, the Pilgrims sought to be separated from the Church of England and government and simply practice their beliefs without interference; whereas the Puritans sought to enforce their beliefs by governing - to the exclusion of all other religious beliefs. Remember, Oliver Cromwell was a Puritan...Sometimes known as Separationists (Pilgrim) and Non-Separationists (Puritan), both groups sought religious freedom but might not be the most tolerant of denominations themselves.

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  10. Every religion, in fact every nation and society, has had its "Puritans", i.e. those who believe they are too pure to associate with the rest of us.

    Christian Puritanism is truly ironic, because the Christ had nothing but contempt for those who thought they were "pure", or tried to form clubs of purity. He associated himself with everything non-kosher, including Samaritans, prostitutes, centurions, lepers and those feared as "possessed".

    "Pharisee" translates as "pure and separated".

    I am English. And, I imagine that in the mid 17th century I would have been fighting with the Royalist against the killjoy Puritan "New Model Army", with their phobias of beauty, theatre, alcohol, sex and Catholics.

    Personally, as an Anglo-Catholic, with a penchant for beauty, theatre, wine and sex, I don't have much patience for Puritanism.

    If I have to spend an eternity with Charles II or Oliver Cromwell, please, God, make it with King Charles, and as far from the Puritans as I can be.

    Mark Pickles

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    1. Mark,

      I am German and Catholic. I am entirely with you in what you write: small "c" simply means "all-embracing", and that is what I like. The catholic church is ours, not the pope's or the priest's. I am church.

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